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3 upper body mobility exercises that’ll have you doing more push-ups than ever

Rachel Lapidos

Rachel LapidosMay 21, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/Oscar Wong

Even though a trainer may instruct you to drop down and give them twenty, it’s not so great for your body to go from zero to 60 push-ups. There are many muscles and joints involved in executing an upper body exercise—like the push-up—and dynamic warmups are incredibly important to work through beforehand so that you don’t wind up hurting something. To nail the push-up and get better at it, you’re going to want to work on three key areas.

“Lengthening your muscles is so important, if not more important than strengthening them,” says Devan Kline, CEO and co-founder of Burn Boot Camp. “For instance, a total of 17 muscles and joints attach into the shoulder blades, or scapula.” He strongly recommends mobility work that focuses on the scapula, wrists, and elbows ahead of doing a push-up. “Where multiple muscles are conjoined, it’s really important to warm them up dynamically.”

Warming up your joints gets your muscles ready for your workout, too, but you’ll get added mobilityby focusing on these body parts. “It’s so important in the long run to make time for mobility,” says Kline. “When you strengthen muscles, you contract and shorten them, and if you continue to do that without lengthening—through warmups and stretching—your joints are going to be more susceptible to injury.” Keep scrolling for his three-part upper body warmup that hits your wrists, elbows, and scapula before you slay those push-ups.

Upper body mobility exercises

For the wrists:


1. Waves and prayers: Interlock your fingers and imagine rolling waves with your hands. Wave from elbow to elbow as you’re standing shoulder-width apart. Do this for 30 seconds, then place your hands in a prayer position, fixing your elbows right next to your ribcage. Press your wrists down to the floor, away from your heart. “You’ll feel a stretch in your forearms, which is warming up the muscles and giving room to your joints,” says Kline.


2. Desk lean: Stand over a table or a desk and place your palms down so that your fingertips are pointing towards your torso. Extend your elbows until you feel a stretch. Then release and flip the tops of your hands so that the backs of your palms are on the table, fingers pointing towards your thighs. Stretch that top side of your forearm. Do this for 30 seconds with the palms down, 30 seconds with the palms up.


3. Standing wall walks: Stand against a wall at arm length apart, elbows fully extended at shoulder height. With your fingers pointing down, place your elbows towards the wall and slowly drag your palms up the wall until you can’t touch anymore. Lean into where the palm is stretching for 30 seconds.

For the elbows:


1. Elbow circles: Holding your arms out straight while standing, leave your elbows in a fixed position at shoulder height and do big circles with your elbows. Try to rotate your wrists around your elbows in a giant circle, and do this in both directions for 30 seconds.


2. Isolated pronation and supination: Have your elbows pinned against your ribcage as you stand tall, clenching your fists with a 90-degree bend in your elbows. Flip your palm up and down, over and over, really rotating those wrists and warming up the elbows.

For the scapula:


1. Dynamic T and I: Lie on the ground in a Superman position and place your hands out straight. Raise them three to six inches off of the floor, making a “T” motion, then slowly sweeping your hands above your head into an “I” position. Keep it moving between the two for 30 seconds.


2. Plank protraction: Holding a plank, drop just your shoulder blades as you round your upper back and drop it down. It’s the protraction of your scapula.


3. Bilateral rotation: While standing with your elbows held at your side, turn your palms over repeatedly, back and forth. You’re only moving at the elbows, swinging them like a gate with your forearms swinging inside and out.

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